Radio stars (Dec 1938)

Record Details:

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FOR A LAU4+I! skipping rope is to a boxer—it keeps him in good condition rehearsal cut-up, too, and kept the gang in top form. The trouble was that Harry's cracks got so good that he was persuaded to take up gag-writing as a profession. Into this breach stepped Buddy Clark, who is known to the radio audience as a romantic singer. Buddy is now the main wag of the Bernie outfit. Ben simply cannot bawl anybody out or strike any "big shot" attitudes during rehearsal or the irrepressible Clark lets him have it. Per- haps Ben realizes that Buddy's ability to talk back is an important psychological com- pensation for the rest of the boys in the band, who would like to do so themselves on occasion. A certain amount of discipline is, of course, neces- sary, for if all the boys were mad-men Bernie would never get anywhere at rehearsals. The meeker ones feel avenged and happy, therefore, when Buddy puts over a crack. The other day at rehearsal Bernie sud- denly got big shot. He turned to Buddy and glared. "Please, no more clowning today," he said. "I'm very tired and I'm very busy and you know I'm auditioning vocalists this after- noon." Buddy grinned in a menacing way. "That's funny," he said. "I was auditioning comedians all morning." When Paul Whiteman's band goes on the road, Irving Strouse attends to all the details of itinerary and generally "nurse- maids" the boys. For instance, each of the musicians is pro- vided with an itinerary sheet which warns him, in advance, of show schedules and train schedules and includes a lot of useful miscellaneous information, such as where to get shirts laundered and where the best restaurants in town may be located. The important feature of Irving's schedules is that they flaunt a sort of fraternity club sense of humor that takes the kick out of a lot of the resentment "the boys" work up during a grind of one-nighters. Irving tries to make a gag out of anything unpleasant for the sake of the morale of White- man and the gang. This is one of his chief values to the King of Jazz. Let us glance over a typical Strouse itin- erary. Here we see that it was necessary, at one point in a recent tour of the South, to take a long "bus jump." At the conclusion of the information as to the time and place of departure by bus, Irving remarks: "This is a stinkola of a jaunt but it couldn't be helped—remember that the boss is really a Whiteman." Dave Clark is an old newspaperman who is constantly sought out by stars and gag writers for the reason that he is a gold-mine of laughs and a real challenger of wit. Stars ask Dave to dinner, or to visit them for the week- end, for the specific reason that it's a pleasure to be ribbed Fred Waring and hi: the air Saturdays at by him. Dave's too independent to be on anybody's pay- roll and prefers to live the life he loves—which is to wander up and down Broadway in a rapture of double- talk and do everything but sleep at Lindy's. He has no respect at all for "big names," and he dares to make quips at the expense of those who pride themselves on wit. Orson Welles still tells a story about the day he and Alexander Woollcott were walking down Broadway together and ran into Dave. "Dear me," said Dave. "Here comes Susan and God." Joe Cook, who prides himself at proficiency in double-talk, can't win with Dave, but he doesn't mind being the fall guy when Clark deals out the last word. He tells about the time he was arguing with Dave about trends in radio humor. He thought he had Dave convinced when Dave slammed his fist on the table and shouted, "I may be wrong, Joe, but I ain't far from it." Joe gave up. The lad who is responsible for taking Tommy Dorsey down a peg or two, and making him love it, is Skeets Hurfurt, hot tenor. He's the practical joking type of boss-baiter who believes that actions speak louder than words. There was a time when Tommy, driving the boys pretty hard at rehearsals during a New York hotel date, got his band feeling pretty much like a bunch of kids constantly being bawled out by the study-hall teacher. Skeets formed a conspiracy with the boys to rib Tommy back to good-humor and to the "treat us like an equal" basis. One night when Tommy stepped up to the band- stand, each time that he gave the boys the one-two they went into an off-key, sour version of Sentimental Over You as the second chorus of every number they played. Before the evening was over, Tommy was laughing his head off and saying, "Please, will you, fellas?" and the morale of the band was^back to normal. Fred Allen, as everyone knows, is a hard-working, almost grim, comedian who spends seventy-five percent rjf the time he's not on the air writing in tiny, precise long- hand and sweating over what will be laughs on the next show. "Uncle" Jim Harkins, Allen's "front man," general majordomo and assistant of the Allen shows, knows Fred's hermit-like activities, knows that all he wants is to be let alone during his working hours, and knows Allen's distress at being interrupted with the millions of requests with which such stars are hounded. But occa- sionally he has to trap the lion in his lair, and if he didn't have a goofy sense of humor many of these occasions would be disastrous. At such times he often turns Allen's desperation into a grin. On one (Continued on page 69) Pennsylvanians are on 1:30 p.m. EST on NBC.